I like a good horror story, but sometimes I get so terrified I want to crawl under the covers and not emerge for a good long while. The books that terrify me, though, aren’t the one ones by Stephen King or Clive Barker — supernatural horror just makes me laugh — it’s the real-world scary stuff that makes me tremble. For a long time, my standard for nightmare fuel has been Jeff Sharlet’s The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. That’s a book that makes you aware of a kind of malevolent insanity gripping a significant chunk of the leadership of our country, a malignancy that goes unquestioned and even with approval. There really are monsters at the top.
But move over, Sharlet, here’s a new book that’s even scarier: The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children, by Katherine Stewart. The monsters aren’t off in Washington DC, they’re right next door, and they’re coming for your children.
Stewart first notices these odd little happy Christian clubs popping up in her child’s schools, and then she digs deeper: she talks to their representatives. She attends their conventions. She takes their training courses. She sees precisely what they’re doing, and gets the words straight from their mouths: they’re out to convert every child in the world to their hateful, narrow, “Bible-believing” dogma, even while in public they claim to be ecumenical and kind and loving.
Who is “they”, you ask. It’s the Child Evangelism Fellowship, and just the name ought to chill you: this is an organized, well-funded group of people dedicated to proselytizing specifically to 4 to 14 year old children, the prime age for conversion.
They also have other goals, among them the total obliteration of public education. It’s ironic: they often take advantage of our institutions, leasing our public school buildings for church services and Sunday schools (They’re cheap! Professional, well-maintained buildings available at minimal cost), trading on the credibility of the schools (They try mightily to produce the illusion that their efforts are sanctioned by and part of the official school curriculum), yet privately they detest the whole principle of universal education, and their goal is to subvert the whole endeavor and turn education into Christian indoctrination.
They found something called “Good News Clubs” at schools, led by community volunteers, which superficially promote a kind of generic moral religiosity which often wins over culturally diverse communities — you know the ones I’m talking about, the kind where they might detest gay-hatin’, science-despisin’, Pat Robertson-style fundamentalism, but nod in happy agreement at the importance of faith, and blandly accept that religion in general is good and virtuous and that we should encourage our children to adopt a faith tradition…for their moral upbringing in an environment of conscience, don’t you know. What they don’t realize is that the Good News Clubs stealthily promote that gay-hatin’, science-despisin’, Pat Robertson-style fundamentalism directly to their children, while asking them not to talk about it to Mommy and Daddy. They will cheerfully take in the children of Catholics and Jews, so that they can tell those children that Catholics and Jews will burn in Hell.
These people are just plain evil. Sure, they’re kindly old grandmas and sincerely pious ordinary joes, but they’ve also got it in their heads that they must inject their poisonous beliefs into everyone’s children. And they are dedicated: they will make time and invest money in their cause. Fear them. They lie and fight dirty and will use your own liberal and progressive values to undermine those same values in gullible children.
These Good News Clubs are springing up all over the place, so the first thing I did when I finished the book was to look to see if there were any Good News Clubs in the Morris area schools. I found plenty in other schools — often in cheerfully bland announcements in PTA newsletters or school websites — but nothing about Morris. I breathed a sigh of relief, and thought that was one nightmare I’d dodged…and then…and then…
Capture a city for Christ! That’s the battle cry of over a hundred workers from across America who join together to “jump start” a Gospel outreach to children in a target city.
This coming summer, CEF workers will gather in the Twin Cities of Minnesota where volunteers from local churches will be trained to reach children in their area for Jesus. These same churches will continue ministry in the fall by sponsoring Good News Clubs in the public elementary schools nearby.
It’s like the monster jumping out of the grave at the very end of the horror movie! They’re coming to get us!
Listen, Minnesotans, this is your only chance. Read The Good News Club now, before it’s too late. These people will be making proposals to your schools to install a fifth column of radical evangelical Christians into privileged positions, all in order to snare the local children into a hell-and-damnation, sulfur-and-brimstone, Satan-is-out-to-get-you, boogety boo version of hateful Christianity. Your local mega-church pastors and conservative wackjobs will be encouraging this because it’s what they believe anyway; your gentle-souled namby-pamby neighbors who see nothing wrong with faith will go along because they are ignorant and unaware.
Sound the warning. They’re here already! You’re next!
Or perhaps, more accurately, the Child Catchers are coming to town.